A giant, ocean sunfish weighing more than 6,000 pounds was found in Portugal and the fish has posthumously set a world record for being the largest bony fish known to man, according to a recent report.
The deceased fish was discovered afloat near Faial Island, which is a Portuguese island located within the Azores archipelago of the central North Atlantic, according to Atlantic Naturalist Association, a nonprofit conservation research and education organization for the Atlantic Region.
The ocean-monitoring organization’s press release, dated Oct. 13, 2022, states the record-breaking fish was found on Dec. 9, 2021, and weighed 6,049.48 pounds (2,744 kilograms).
It also measured about 11.8 feet (3.59 meters) in height and 10.7 feet (3.25 meters) in length, according to Atlantic Naturalist’s report, which was recently published in the Journal of Fish Biology.
Researchers from the Atlantic Naturalist Association and Azores University conducted a stomach content search and DNA analysis to gather biometrical and morphological data from the dead sunfish, but the fish’s sex couldn’t be determined, according to Atlantic Naturalist’s six-page report.
The sunfish is a Mola alexandrini variety, also known as a Ramsay's sunfish, southern ocean sunfish or bump-head sunfish in many parts of the world, according to the Australian Museum.
Mola alexandrini are typically found in temperate and tropical marine waters in the Southern Hemisphere, the museum reports, though some might inhabit or swim to the Northern Hemisphere.
The southern species falls under the larger Molidae family, which is colloquially known as ocean sunfish or mola mola, according to FishBase, a global fish species database.
Ocean sunfish are reportedly distinguished by their short bodies that abruptly end behind their dorsal and anal fins, giving them a half-fish appearance. The fish also have skeletal bones instead of cartilage, as seen in sharks and rays, and can weigh hundreds or thousands of pounds, according to National Geographic.
Classification profiles on FishBase list the overall ocean sunfish population as "vulnerable" and the Mola alexandrini population as having "very high vulnerability."
The dead sunfish found in 2021 had a "white coloration and punctured eyes" and a "large contusion" on the right side of its head with "remains of brick red antifouling paint" that are typically found on keelboats, but it's not known if the fish was struck before or after death, the Atlantic Naturalist Association’s published report states.
"The cause of death remains uncertain," Atlantic Naturalist wrote.
The organization noted that the Mola alexandrini sunfish found in Portugal beat the previous Mola alexandrini sunfish world record from 1996, which was found in Kamogawa, Japan, and weighed approximately 5,070.6 pounds (2,300 kilograms).
Guinness World Records has yet to update its "heaviest bony fish" record online.
"These findings not only help us understand the role of invertebrate feeding species in marine ecosystems, but also show that the ocean is still healthy enough to support the world's largest animals," Atlantic Naturalist wrote in its press release. "However, they raise concerns about the need for additional conservation measures regarding ocean pollution and boat traffic."